You’ve probably heard the old joke about a man who found himself stranded on his roof during a flood. Some neighbors come by in a canoe and try to help him but the man remains on the roof. “I prayed to God and he will save me,” the man insists. As the water continues to rise, a rescue boat approaches. Again the man declines assistance. Instead he states firmly that God will save him. Just before the waters reach the top of his roof, a helicopter appears. Once again the man refuses to be rescued. At last he is overcome by the flood waters and drowns. In heaven, he asks God, “I prayed so fervently, and believed that you would keep me safe. Why did you let me drown?” God’s reply, “I sent you a canoe, a rescue boat and a helicopter. Each time you refused my help.”
Obviously, the man failed to recognize God’s mercy offered through the hands of others. Of course a rational person would eagerly accept any help that was offered in an emergency such as a flood. But how often do we pray and pray to God when we are faced with a difficult situation and then refuse help from friends and neighbors. No one wants to be a burden, but by accepting help from others, we are allowing them to carry out God’s will.
So many times, we are called upon to pray for the needs of others and of course we do so willingly knowing that God answers prayer. We are told in the Matthew 18:19, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.” Clearly, the power of prayer is amplified by the number of people praying. As well, the power is amplified in the mind of the person being prayed for. There is great solace in knowing that others are praying for us.
That God answers prayer is something every Christian knows from first-hand experience. We all have in our memories circumstances when the Holy Spirit was so obviously present at a time of great need. But we must be open to the call of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we are to be the instruments through which prayers are answered. If, as happened last week, my neighbor who is ill asks me to go to the store for her, it is obvious what I am being called upon to do. But sometimes our role is less obvious and even unknown to us. It might be in the form of a smile or kind word to a stranger who is having difficulties. We may never know the effect we have on situations we are unwittingly a party to, but God knows and so do those who receive our help.
Growing up, I had the perfect example of Christian charity in my grandmother. She was always willing to help anyone in need. She cared for my grandfather who was in a wheelchair as far back as I remember. Even with that responsibility, she would come to the aid of sick neighbors or anyone who needed her help. At my grandmother’s funeral, my aunt Billie told this story that illustrates my grandmother’s kindness to others. Aunt Billie had a blinding headache. She called my grandmother, her mother-in-law, and told her how badly her head hurt. “Could you go to the store and get me some aspirin?” Billie asked.
“Oh, you poor thing!” my grandmother said. “Of course I’ll get you some aspirin. I’ll do it right away. Who is this?”
We never know when we will be called upon to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We must be open to the needs of others and bold in our willingness to do as we are asked to do.